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Shannon is the real deal


Steve Shannon gets it that the attorney general’s office in Virginia is about public safety first and foremost. Ken Cuccinelli, on the other hand, seems more focused on the political end of things.
“He’s not talking in any meaningful way about public safety. He’s talking about the same things that you would talk about if you were running for the legislature,” Shannon said of his conservative Republican opponent Cuccinelli, whose campaign website is spare on details of what he would do in the public-safety sphere, to the point that it contains all of 294 words in a single-page bulletpoint presentation listing an overview of his legislative record.

Shannon, on the other hand, has been quite specific with his ideas on fighting gangs and crimes against children and violent crime in general. “I don’t believe the attorney general’s office should be about pushing a personal political agenda. It should be focused on the fact that every four and a half minutes another violent crime is committed in Virginia, and somebody’s got to step up and do something about that,” Shannon told me on Saturday on a visit to Downtown Harrisonburg.

It was my first opportunity to talk one-on-one with Shannon. I’d rather pointedly reserved judgment on the Shannon campaign because even as I’d been reading the details of his public-safety plans and his endorsements from groups like the Virginia Association of Realtors and the Virginia Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors because I wanted to meet him first to get a feel for how authentic the campaign was – basically hoping I wouldn’t find out later on that the Shannon juggernaut was all hat and no cowboy, a flurry of press releases with a candidate who needed help sounding out the big words in the speech somebody on staff wrote for him on his way to the lectern.

Shannon obviously had picked up on my public wanderings. “The famous Chris Graham,” he said as we shook hands at Old Dominion Coffeehouse Saturday afternoon. He spoke to a group of about 15 voters, delivering what sounded to me to be probably his basic stump, giving a brief overview of how he got involved in the public sphere, helping spearhead the first Amber Alert program in Northern Virginia in the 1990s, then offering the line about a violent crime being committed every four and a half minutes and another about 30,000 computers being used in Virginia to transmit child pornography.

In an interview after the talk, I pressed Shannon on what I feel is something most politics journalists overlooked. I love it when I hear a candidate for public office talk up problems and ideas for fixing things, but I want to know where the resources are going to come from before I’m going to say I like the ideas.

“We can do things differently with existing resources,” Shannon said, using child safety as an example first. “We should work with different social-networking sites to make sure that if they’re convicted felons who are on the sex-offender registry, they are not allowed on social-networking sites, social-networking sites where kids chat with other kids. We should not have people who are convicted sexual predators being on those sites,” Shannon said.

Going that route would only require the commitment of staff time. Which still costs money, but I’m sure most people would agree that as long as we’ve budgeted for staff time, how it’s used isn’t something that is a new cost.

Back on the child-safety issue just to finish that thought – Shannon also proposed exploring the creation of education programs aimed at parents to get the message to them that they shouldn’t let their tweens and teens on computers out of their sight, and that the state and localities should seek out ways to partner with the private sector and public nonprofits like Boys and Girls Clubs on programs aimed at building a base of knowledge about safe Internet usage.

“Public safety, if you’re involved in it, is about standing between people who would do bad things in society and trying to keep them away from people who just for a moment in their life may become vulnerable. The public expects those of us who volunteer to become involved in public safety to stand between those two groups,” Shannon said.

That answered my questions.


– Story by Chris Graham



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